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Equipment Ownership and Obligations on ERC Grants

Publication date: 
12 November 2018 (UK time)

Background and Issue in Question

European Research Council (ERC) grants can cover the cost of equipment used for the purposes of the project. However, as is the case for most Horizon 2020 grants, the eligible costs are not the total purchase price of the equipment but the depreciation costs per year of the equipment, in proportion to the amount of time it is used for the ERC project. This means that the ERC will only cover the entire cost of equipment bought on ERC grants if the equipment is fully depreciated over the course of the project and the equipment was exclusively used for the ERC project over this period. This system, in combination with the portability of ERC grants (meaning that a PI can change Host Institution during the lifetime of their project), can result in confusion about the obligations of the PI and the HI with regards to equipment.

Clarification

Who owns the equipment?

The owner of the equipment is determined by the standard institutional practice of the HI who made the purchase, and is almost always the HI itself (it is never the ERC). Once the ERC grant is ended, the equipment remains the property of the HI. If the equipment is not fully depreciated over the course of the ERC grant, the HI also bears the financial responsibility of covering any remaining costs.

What happens to the equipment if the PI moves institution during the grant?

Since the ERC only pay depreciation costs for equipment, if a PI leaves and their former HI is not retained as a beneficiary on the grant, depreciation costs can no longer be claimed (although they can be claimed for the period of time that the PI was at the HI).
If the PI still requires the equipment, they can either purchase it again at their new HI (who can then claim depreciation costs on it for the remainder of the project) or have the equipment transferred from their previous HI (additional costs for reinstallation can be charged to the grant).
In the event that the former HI refuses to transfer the equipment to the new HI after the PI has requested this, the ERC reserves the right to impose sanctions on the original HI, as set out in the Model Grant Agreement.

In Summary

  • Equipment is owned by the HI unless they agree otherwise;
  • Equipment remains the property of the HI after the grant ends;
  • The HI is responsible for any equipment costs not covered by the ERC;
  • Depreciation costs can only be claimed while the HI is a beneficiary;
  • PIs who change HIs during a project can repurchase their equipment or ask to have the equipment from their original HI transferred;
  • HIs who refuse to let equipment be transferred can be subject to sanctions.